4 Ways to Protect Yourself From ID Theft This Holiday Season

(StatePoint) ‘Tis the season for holiday shopping. When making purchases online, be sure to protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft -- it’s more common than you may think.

With just a few pieces of personal information, thieves can open new credit lines, drain bank accounts and file fraudulent tax returns. The Federal Trade Commission says credit card fraud was the number one type of identity theft reported in 2018, with 167,000 people saying their information was misused on an existing account or used to open a new credit card account. No matter what form it takes, identity theft can cost thousands of dollars and take years to correct.

Below are four tips to help prevent identity theft:

1. Vary passwords: Use a different username and password for each shopping account. That way, if someone steals your information on one account, they won’t be able to go on a shopping spree at other sites, too.

2. Track transactions: Check your statements for any suspicious activity. If you don’t recognize a transaction, contact your credit card company or bank right away.

3. Beware of scams: Watch out for phishing scams in which fraudsters send emails that look like they’re from a reputable company, but aren’t. Avoid clicking on links in emails as they may download malware that can give thieves access to your personal information. Always visit a retailer’s website directly to make a purchase.

4. Get identify theft insurance: Some insurance companies offer coverage to make the process of undoing the damage from identity theft easier and less costly. For example, Erie Insurance has Identity Theft Recovery Coverage, an affordable option that can easily be added to a homeowners or renters insurance policy.

“When someone uses information about you without your permission, it takes time and money to straighten things out,” said Robert Buckel, vice president of product management at Erie Insurance. “This coverage offers peace of mind to help you restore your credit and make the process -- and your life -- a little easier.”

Protecting your identity may not be top-of-mind during the holiday shopping season, but with just a few safeguards in place, your online security can be greatly enhanced.

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Photo Credit: (c) Nattakorn Maneerat / iStock via Getty Images Plus